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In My Heart Forever This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I walked into the hospital room one Sunday morning knowing he didn't look the way he used to. He was certainly the same man inside, but on the outside he was just skin and bones. Those muscles that were always there to lift me way above his shoulders were no longer there. I told myself that this time I wasn't going to cry. The last time I was there, two days before, I walked out of the room with tears in my eyes and he noticed. I promised this time I was only going to laugh with him; after all, Grandpa says I am his pride and joy.

I was greeted with a big hello from both my grandparents. Grandma looked as though she hadn't slept in days. The cot she slept on was tidied up and neat. I walked in while they were in the middle of a conversation, because Grandpa shushed her as I entered.

"I love you, darling" is all I really remember hearing that entire two hours. Grandma left the room to go food shopping with my father. As she'd left, she bent over Grandpa's bed; I had heard her mumble, "Please get healthy." I couldn't help but think how much I wanted the same thing. Once again before I knew it, I was crying.

Sitting by his bed while he slept gave me time. There was something different about this picture. I was the adult and Grandpa needed me. I started to reminisce about the days when he was younger. He wasn't an ordinary person; he always had time for others and didn't take care of himself until he had taken care of everyone else. He would sit and play games like war and wrestling with all of us.

Grandpa took me and my brothers to the zoo almost every year when we were younger. I would ride the elephants and he would stand by my side to make sure I didn't fall. I would pretend to be in charge of a jungle the way a princess was in charge of a palace. I guess that's probably why Grandpa always referred to me as his little princess.

Out of seven grandchildren I was the only granddaughter. I got the most attention because I was his birthday present. Grandpa and I had something that neither my brothers nor my cousins had: our birthdays were four days apart. When I was little, we would count down all 365 day of the year. As I got older we would start the beginning of March. March 12, I would call and say happy birthday and he would say, "Thank you, but more important, yours is only four days away." Then we'd hang up and in four days, sure enough, he would call and wish me the happiest birthday ever.

As my mind wandered back, I remembered why I was in this hospital room that smelled so much like a medicine cabinet. I looked around and saw Grandpa's breakfast tray just sitting on the ledge. It didn't surprise me it was untouched because I knew Grandpa hadn't been eating for awhile now. Just by watching him sleep I could tell the pain he was in. I kept saying to myself, "Why him?"

Suddenly I heard "Darling, what time is it? When will Grandma return?" At that moment I felt so helpless. He was hardly able to speak; it was the faint whisper of a scared little child. Why did that child have to be my grandpa?

Days went by and his condition didn't change. I sat up every night praying he'd get better. I called him two or three times a week. We spoke about me and how I was doing. He would reassure me how well he was feeling. I knew he was lying but I went along and promised to see him soon. Our conversations would end in a unique way.

"I love you, darling," he'd say.

"I love you too, Grandpa," I'd say, and then we'd hang up. I would sit with the phone in my hand, wiping the tears that fell one by one. I knew it was near the end. I refused to accept it, though. I promised myself he was going to be okay.

Then it happened: on Saturday, January 7, 1994 my mother came into my bedroom and I knew it was bad; she looked as though she'd been up all night.

"Amy, wake up!" she said, shaking me gently. She didn't realize I was awake, but I just lay in bed, wondering what she could want at 9 a.m. on a Saturday.

"Listen, no matter what you do, just stay calm for your father. Your grandpa died at 2: 00 this morning," she said, as I watched her wipe her eyes with a tissue. I felt myself shaking and all I remember is trying to wake up from this horrible nightmare. The problem was reality set in and no matter what I did or how much I cried, Grandpa Joey wasn't coming back.

I kept thinking maybe if I said, "I love you," over and over again, things would change, but it was still the same even after I tried. The only difference was I realized he was still in my heart and that's where he would stay forever.

Now, months later, I watch my father cope with his loss in a very unique way. My brothers and I still see parts of my grandpa around our house. My father wears my grandpa's kippah and tiffilin when he goes to temple every day. One of my grandpa's last wishes was to see my father, his sister and my grandma getting along. My father calls my grandma every day and listens to everything she has to say, whether it's relevant or not. My dad's sister and my dad speak more now than ever. Everyone seems to have more patience with each other, now. Maybe that's what Grandpa left us, or maybe that's because when situations change, people change, too. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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